Seemingly overnight, Kimberley Locke has gone from American Idol to gay icon.
Like Judy Garland, Cher, and the Divine Miss M. before her, Locke has been embraced by the not-so-straight set. "I think, because she didn't win on Idol, her managers figured they had to target a certain niche, and they chose us," says Ben Bernstein, a 29-year-old gay dude from Cleveland's West Side. "Your loss. Our gain."
Her popularity with gays stems from the debut dance track she released right after her third-place finish on American Idol in 2003. Now her high-energy "Eighth World Wonder" spins in nearly every dance club across the country.
"I don't know if I'm targeting them or they're targeting me, but I have a huge gay following," says the 27-year-old Locke. "I didn't want to miss out on any of my fans. So I said, 'Let's go for it.'"
And that's what she's done. During the last month, Locke has sung at gay-pride festivals in Long Beach, Kansas City, and San Francisco. This weekend, she brings her poppy R&B to Greatest Pride on Earth, the 16th annual gay-pride party at Cleveland's Voinovich Park.
The fest steps off with a parade on West Third Street, between Superior and Saint Clair avenues. Veering east on Lakeside Avenue, the cavalcade of floats, marching bands, and drag queens makes its way to the park for the circus-themed festival. Throughout the day, clowns, jugglers, and sword swallowers will stroll under the big top, before Locke takes the stage.
The Tennessee native realizes her celebrity status may not last forever. Before Idol, she was accepted into law school. If fame turns out to be fleeting, she's ready to hit the books again.
Whatever happens, she knows her gay fans will still support her. "You queens latch onto somebody, and you guys just take charge and make it great and fabulous," she says. "I'm just going along for the ride that you guys are taking me on."